“History is unfolding before our eyes,” said Haisla Nation chief councillor Crystal Smith of the single largest private-sector infrastructure project in Canadian history.

“We are having a share, and we are having our say,” Smith said.

The project’s LNG liquefaction and export facility in Kitimat will be built in Haisla territory, and the First Nation has been an early partner and proponent of the project. The Ledcor-Haisla Limited Partnership, for example, was selected by LNG Canada two years ago for site preparation activities.

Getting gas to the facility is the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline, which will be built, operated and maintained by TransCanada Corp.

In September, the company announced it had signed project agreements with all elected Indigenous communities along the pipeline’s path – 20 in all. LNG Canada’s positive final investment decision means more than $1 billion in work and employment contracts also get the green light, with most of those funds going to Indigenous communities and businesses.

In total, TransCanada has awarded $620 million in contract work – for clearing, medical, security and camp management – to northern British Columbian Indigenous businesses. An additional $400 million in contract and employment opportunities is expected to go to Indigenous and local communities during the construction of the pipeline.

“It’s very exciting for the First Nations that have signed benefit agreements,” said Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance.

The benefits don’t end there. The provincial government has signed multibillion-dollar revenue-sharing agreements with First Nations along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route.

Fourteen natural gas pipeline benefits agreements (PBAs), signed by the former BC Liberal government between 2014 and 2015, promise each First Nation $10 million in annual revenue once the pipeline is in service, and for as long as the line continues to deliver natural gas to Kitimat.

With a 40-year export licence, the PBAs could generate up to $5.6 billion in total benefits to B.C. First Nations. The province has additionally committed more than $34 million in payments to First Nations between the project’s development and its completion.

The $30 million Indigenous Skills Training Development Fund, which delivers training programs primarily in northern B.C., was another initiative signed by the previous government to teach Indigenous workers the skills required to work on major infrastructure projects, such as a the Coastal GasLink line.

Such education commitments are critical, said Ogen-Toews, who served as chief of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation for six years.

“Part of the opposition’s argument is that it’s short-term jobs, short-term employment – but we want to ensure that we’re creating long-term, sustainable careers for our people,” she said, adding that some of the training opportunities are already in progress.

First Nations support for LNG Canada was one of the four conditions B.C. Premier John Horgan said were needed for the project to win BC NDP support.

From Ogen-Toews’ perspective, a project like this has been a long time coming.

“This is a historical moment not only for Indigenous people but for B.C. and Canada,” she said. “It’s about time, I think, that these projects are benefiting everyone. It’s a win-win all the way around.”

Natural gas pipeline benefits agreements

The following First Nations will receive $10 million in annual revenue from the first anniversary of the Coastal GasLink pipeline's in-service date, and throughout its active lifetime. B.C. will also make the following pipeline payments:

  • Burns Lake Indian Band: $830,000 plus $124,500
  • Doig River First Nation: $1.17 million plus $175,500
  • Halfway River First Nation: $2.03 million plus $406,000
  • Kitselas First Nation: $1.15 million plus $230,000
  • Lheidli T’enneh: $1.24 million then $248,000
  • McLeod Lake Indian Band: $3.38 million plus $338,000
  • Moricetown Band (Wet’suwet’en treaty group): $4.99 million plus $998,000
  • Nee-Tahi-Buhn Indian Band: $2.1 million plus $420,000
  • Saik’uz First Nation: $1.91 million then $236,500
  • Salteau First Nations: $3.26 million plus $652,000
  • Skin Tyee First Nation: $2.33 million plus $466,000
  • Stellat’en First Nation: $2.53 million plus $379,500
  • West Moberly First Nations: $2.01 million plus $201,000
  • Yekooche First Nation: $390,000 plus $78,000

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